With over 50 governments since World War II, it would be hard to describe the Italian public administration track record as anything but erratic. But perhaps a new era has dawned… and with it comes an Operating System of the Country no less and it comes in the form of developers.italia.it
An OS of the country?
The OS of the country is described as a series of fundamental [software] blocks upon which services for citizens, the public administration and enterprises are built with modern digital products.
According to project collaborator Diego Piacentini, “The primary objective of our team is to build the foundations, to start creating the core components of this operating system. We will strive to achieve this vision by adopting a management style that is agile, collaborative and efficient and by sharing our work with citizens, businesses and the public administration.”
The website developers.italia.it will now exist to support these aims and provide source code, a document management system, plus a variety of interactive tools to coordinate and develop the digital projects of the public administration more effectively.
Processes for analogue bureaucracy
Piacentini has bemoaned the antiquated technological systems that litter Italian public services and says that these lack any reasonable degree interoperability.
It’s time to step out of processes created for an analogue bureaucracy, he argues.
ANPR (Anagrafe Nazionale Popolazione Residente)
With just a little Italian flair the team has called for all information to be singular (i.e. not replicated and hosted in multiple locations) and located in a singular place — or as they say in Italian ANPR (Anagrafe Nazionale Popolazione Residente).
“These days our identities are spread across eight thousand city registers. Personal information must be combined into one single register. This will enable the country to become more efficient and will save us money and energy by simplifying a variety of procedures and unifying them at a national level,” notes Piacentini.
The central issue for developers themselves comes down to two factors:
a) Those that would like to ‘code for the public good’ and benefit millions of Italians have to deal with protocols and processes that were laid down at the turn of the millennium, if not earlier.
b) Very few of code libraries needed to integrate into basic functions have zero testing environment options or support services… so, basically, they’re really hard to move forward.
A lesson for the UK?
A casual search for similar projects in the UK will turn up the British governments ‘progressive’ approach for adopting OpenOffice… not quite the open API ecosystem that they are envisaging in Italy. That being said, the work carried out at Gov.UK and technology at GDS is arguably just as progressive.
So should we bow to Italian passion and flair, or will this whole project run like a rusty Alfa Romeo GTV on a cold day – great bodywork and design, but you wouldn’t want to trust it for 24/7 performance.